Thursday, June 07, 2007

This story reminded me of my master's degree graduation ceremony. At that time, the university had commencement at the Knickerbocker Arena - or was it the Pepsi Arena by then? Not sure (it's now called the Times Union Center). Unlike now, it was a combined ceremony, undergraduate and graduate students at the same time. Only the doctoral students got to go on stage when their names were called. I believe the dissertation title was read, also.

The ceremony was already a bit controversial, because some Turkish official was receiving an honorary degree and there were people who were not thrilled. I remember being cornered in the office by a woman who worked with me. She was a strange lady, claimed to have some sort of chronic or terminal disease and she always had a nurse/companion with her who was equally odd. But that is another story! Anyway, she demanded to know if I planned to boycott the ceremony, or at least turn my back and join a protest against the Turkish guy. At the time I was a graduate assistant, so the power differential made her behavior even more inappropriate. But I held my ground and said, "if you think I am going to disappoint my parents who have been waiting for thirty years to attend one of their children's college graduations, you are crazy."

Well, that was a bit of a tangent. Back to the ceremony. There were quite a few doctoral graduates that day; it took quite a long time for the names and dissertation titles to be read, for each student to be hooded on the stage, shake hands, and for the audience to clap. To be perfectly honest, it is a large school, it was a very long ceremony, graduate and undergraduate commencement don't mix that well, and the whole thing did get to be mind numbing. So after quite a few names, the graduating seniors, who were seated in the back and had been batting around beach balls, somehow collectively devised a different response: they all clapped at the same time, but only once. There was this thunderous clap as each doctoral student was hooded. It was hysterical, in an embarrassing sort of way, although if I was getting my PhD rather than my master's degree, I may not have appreciated it. But then again, maybe I wouldn't have minded. It was a happy day. Nothing could spoil the experience. And the undergraduates were just being exuberant.

Later there were lots of letters in the Times Union criticizing the university and the undergraduates. I am not sure that the ceremonies were ever held together again.

About the linked story, I can't believe the school district was this stupid in the first place. But then high school is really mostly about control, rules and authority, isn't it?

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